Book Review

PoPB: What If…? by Anthony Browne and Doodleday by Ross Collins.

Pair of Picture Books Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

What If…? by Anthony Browne. Picture Corgi.
WhatIfJoe is nervous about his first big party, and as Mum walks him along the darkening street to his friend’s house, his imagination starts to run wild. They search for the right place, looking through the windows, wondering “What if…?” while making surprising discoveries along the way.

This book explores the anxieties children may have about going to a party – something many children will experience to some degree. Joe, the main character in the book, has lost the party invite so doesn’t know which house the party is. He and his mother move along the street from house to house, trying to find the right one – each wrong house allowing Joe to air another concern about the upcoming party and allowing his mother to reassure him. The things Joe’s worried about are pretty universal, I think many adults will identify with them let alone young readers.

The illustrations generally alternate between a page where Joe and his mother are pictured alongside the next house, and a double spread looking through the window of that house. The pages which focus just on Joe and his mother are done beautifully in blue tones, their simplicity really allows the text to get the focus it deserves. The double spreads are stunning, though I didn’t personally like all of them. Whilst I understand this is a book about anxieties and fears there were a couple I found really disturbing. I love Anthony Browne’s style though – both the shaping of his people and the gorgeously rich colours used in particular.

I liked a lot of this book, but the couple of illustrations I didn’t like were enough to alter my overall feeling about it. I don’t think this is a book I’ll be rushing back to, but I’m glad I know it exists and I like the way the story handles its purpose very much.

Doodleday by Ross Collins. Gullane Children’s Books.
DoodledayMom has just one thing to tell Harvey on Doodleday-no drawing allowed! But surely drawing one little fly can’t hurt. Not until Harvey’s fly comes to life and starts to wreck the kitchen, that is! What can Harvey draw that will catch it? A spider! But the spider proves to be even more trouble. Only one thing is capable of stopping Harvey’s rampaging doodles… Mom!

One of my all time favourite picture books is Ross Collins’ Dear Vampa, whilst I didn’t love this book as much as I loved that one I thoroughly enjoyed it. The action starts pretty much as soon as the book does, despite Harvey’s mum telling him not to draw on Doodleday he can’t resist the temptation and it all goes wrong from there. Harvey’s first drawing is of a fly, which comes to life – this is what happens to drawings drawn on Doodleday and so he solves the problem the best way he can think of and draws a spider to eat the fly. The story as a result is reminiscent of the old woman swallowing the fly, and also Oliver Jeffer’s Stuck which also features a young boy trying to solve a problem and then the problem that his solution has caused.

The story is very amusing, and is kept on the brief side – a proper solution is found before things can get out of hand and silly. I must say though, if Harvey’s mum had actually explained why he shouldn’t draw on Doodleday none of what happens would have happened, she has to shoulder a little responsibility for the chaos he causes! I think this in itself could make for an interesting discussion point.

I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book. They’re filled with so much detail, particularly once the drawn creatures come to life and start causing chaos. I loved the childish creatures, their simplicity works well against the busy backdrops spread across the pages.

A really great read that will be enjoyed by readers both young and old.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

Book Review

Picture Book Mini Reviews [4].

One of my 2013 reading resolutions was to read more picture books. I’m going to share my thoughts on these books in mini reviews throughout the year.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. Walker Books.
I’ve been aware of Mo Willems and the Pigeon for a long time, but it’s usually impossible to find any of Willems’ books in my local library so I hadn’t read any of them. When I saw this one I grabbed it before anyone else could spot it, and immediately sat down to read it.

This book really deserves all of the love and praise it gets. It’s so funny, I know I got completely drawn into the book and found myself answering the pigeon’s repeated requests – I’m sure reading this with a young child is absolutely wonderful. I loved the illustrations, they’re eye catching in their simplicity and work perfectly to support the text. I’m a definite Mo Willems convert and shall be adding his books to my own collection.

Dear Vampa by Ross Collins. Hodder Children’s Books.
This picture book is about a family of vampires living in a normal neighbourhood and struggling to cope with the new neighbours who are normal and live their lives in a completely opposite manner to the vampires. The story is told through letters Bram the young vampire is sending to his grandfather. I adored this book, it made me laugh lots and has a fab twist at the end, I didn’t see it coming and was thrilled by it.

The book has lovely illustrations, they help to reinforce the contrast between the two families – Bram’s family are drawn in black and white line drawings whilst the Wolfson family are in full, sunny colour. This is definitely going on my favourite picture book shelf.

The Queen’s Knickers by Nicholas Allan. Red Fox.
I admit it, I picked this book up purely based on the title! I couldn’t resist at all. The book explains how the Queen has special knickers for all sorts of occasions, and describes the emergency that occurs when her special knicker chest goes missing.

This is a very inventive book, there are lots of different sorts of knickers with plenty of humour attached to the designs. I particularly loved the way the paintings in the Queen’s chambers reflected what was going on – their looks of shock when the knicker chest disappeared made me laugh out loud. This is such a fun book, I know kids will love it (and more than likely the adults reading it too). I know Nicholas Allan has recently published The Royal Nappy: A Royal Baby Book, I’m looking forward to reading that one too.